Former Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang has said that judicial review is fundamental to the rule of law and should not be viewed negatively as a nuisance to government.

In an article published by Ming Pao, Li called retired Court of Final Appeal judge Henry Litton’s criticism of judicial review “unjustified”.

Former Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang
File Photo: Former Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang.

In early December, Litton said in a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club that he felt the system of judicial review was being abused in Hong Kong. He also criticised the case lodged by Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, former President of the University of Hong Kong Students’ Union, who sought judicial review for restarting the city’s public consultation on political reform, albeit in vain.

Quoting former Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung, Li wrote that “Effective judicial review is and remains a cornerstone for good governance”. He also wrote that courts have effective ways to prevent any attempt to abuse the judicial review process.

“I do not however think that attributing improper motives to the unsuccessful applicants in such cases would contribute to a constructive debate on this matter,” Li wrote.

In Litton’s earlier remarks, he said that – because of judicial review – the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge project was delayed by two years while the costs incurred rose to US$1 billion.

henry litton
Henry Litton. Photo: Youtube via FCC.

Li wrote that, were judicial review allowed to proceed, it may cause inconvenience to the public authority and “involve time, expense and delay in the implementation”.

“But under the rule of law, convenience and justice are sometimes not on speaking terms,” he added.

Civic Party founder and chairman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee told Ming Pao that Litton’s comments caused discontent from some judges, hence she said that Li wrote the article precisely to put forward their opinions.

Convenience vs justice

Pro-Beijing Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong party lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said that, if judicial review took place too easily, some people might seek it whenever they were dissatisfied with political decisions, thus causing delays.

She said that, eventually, the government and citizens would “no longer be afraid of judicial reviews anymore.”

priscilla leung mei fun
Priscilla Leung Mei-fun. File photo: Stand News.

Winnie Tam, current chair of the Bar Association, said she strongly agreed with Li’s views, and said convenience should not be prioritised at the expense of justice.

Andrew Li Kwok-nang was the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal from 1997 to 2010.

Koel Chu is a second-year journalism and fine arts student at the University of Hong Kong. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Koel is interested in the arts and urban design. She interned at China Radio International in Beijing and, at her university, she also works as Vice-President of Branding and Marketing in AIESEC, the largest youth-run organisation in the world.